The headlines and reporting over the SABL announcement by the Prime Minister have been very misleading. Despite what you might have read or heard:
- The government has NOT cancelled the 77 SABL leases referred to the Commission of Inquiry for investigation
- The government has NOT cancelled all the SABL leases found by the Commission of Inquiry to have been illegally issued
- The government has NOT restored 5.2 million hectares of land to its customary owners.
- The government has done NOTHING to stop the ongoing illegal logging in SABL areas.
The Prime Minister and the media have misled the people of PNG and as always, the devil is in the details.
This is what NEC has actually determined:
- 28 SABL leases recommended by two Commissioners to be revoked will be revoked – at some unspecified time in the future
- A further 10 leases will be either surrendered, suspended or reviewed – at some unspecified time in the future
- 5 leases found to be valid will continue
- 31 SABL leases that were not reported on by the Commissioners and investigated by Alois Jerewai will be further reviewed by a Task Force to be set up inside the highly corrupt PNG Forest Authority and funded with a grant a K3 million.
Of the 13 SABL where logging is currently ongoing only 3 are recommended to be revoked (see below) and for none of the areas has any instruction been issued to stop logging
Bewani Forest Products Limited. Bewani Portion 160C, FCA 10-03, amount stolen in 12 months K23,968,848 Vanimo Jaya Limited, Aitape West Portion 248C, FCA 10-02, amount stolen in 12 months K4,921,479
Westenders Limited, Madedua Ext Mengen, FCA 10-03, amount stolen in 12 months K1,024,585
Jambo Trak Limited, Schotiuhu Cocoa Estate, FCA 10-04, amount stolen in 12 months K14,701,076
Brilliant Investment Limited (Star Avenue), Marienberg (Anogram), FCA 11-02, amount stolen in 12 months K12,554,368
Summit Agriculture Limited, Wewak Turubu, FCA 11-01, amount stolen in 12 months K25,016,573
East New Britain
Cakara Alam Limited (Tzen Niugini), Illi Waswas FCA, 15-02, amount stolen in 12 months K11,630,578
Kerawara Limited (KK Connections) Toria Head Waters, FCA 15-04, amount stolen in 12 months K1,148,365
Rimbunan Hijau Limited (Gilford) Sigite Mukus, FCA 15-07, amount stolen in 12 months K28,429,919
Tian Suyn Limited, Suikol-Makolkol FCA, 15-05, amount stolen in 12 months K10,993,849
Joinland, Umbukal, FCA 16-02 / 16-62 / 16-63, amount stolen in 12 months K18,318,037
Matufi Limited, Tufi Wanigela, amount stolen in 12 months K1,536,000
West New Britain
Westenders Limited, Lolobao, FCA 14-01, amount stolen in 12 months K13,971,019
Like many in O’Neill’s orbit, the newly appointed Minister for Justice and, gulp, Attorney General, has an impressive history of overseeing government agencies mired in corruption, mismanagement and fraud.
When Parliamentary Clerk, the Public Accounts Committee found that Palo illegally gave out hundreds of thousands of taxpapyer dollars to some familiar names:
- Australian businessman Justin Tkatchenko’s (come PNG Minister!) company Kitoro No.33 was awarded a K1.5 million contract to maintain parliamentary gardens, in breach of procurement procedure. The Kitoro tender was received 3 months AFTER the closing date. The tender submitted was only for twelve months but a three year contract was awarded. The original contract amount of K490,000 was K190,000 above the limit imposed by the Public Finance Management Act. The lowest bid for the project tender was just K12,000 per year. Kitoro was awarded contracts totalling K837,738 that did not go to public tender. The PAC recommended the contracts with Kitoro No.33 be terminated immediately and the officers responsible for the tendering, awarding and executing of the contract face ‘appropriate action’.
- CCS Anvil, owned by Gudmundur Fridriksson, an Australian businessman (of Iceland origins) – who is also spearheading the infamous Paga Hill Estate, in a co-venture with the O’Neill government – was awarded a K375,779 to conduct consultancy work for the Parliamentary Service. This was K175,779 above the tender price, and exceeded the limit of Palo’s financial authority to the tune of K75,779. Extra-contractual payments were also made to CCS Anvil in the amount of K28,979.
It was also found that Palo went on a junket to Malaysia in May 2002 with a number of colleagues. During this trip they spent K100,000 in taxpayers money. PAC remarks “substantial amounts have been spent over a period of 5 years without any approval from the Minister”.
Well at least thanks to PM O’Neill, Palo will now have the political authority to waste millions of Kina of taxpayer’s money.
Last week PNGexposed published an article by Dr Kristian Lasslett on the Paga Hill eviction. The human rights abuses that punctuated the exercise have been denied by police command.
Lasslett points out that police at Paga Hill prevented residents from taking photographs and even confiscated mobile phone cameras, which has made evidencing the abuses all the more difficult (which is, no doubt, the RPNGC’s goal). Now it appears the same brutal treatment has been meted out to residents living at Erima.
The day before their court case was due before the courts, police implemented a brutal demolition – echoing the May 2012 demolition at Paga Hill – and police actively prevented residents documenting the abuse by confiscating cameras.
Below is a news report on the demolition.
As more and more land grabs occur in urban centres for luxury development and debt laden infrastructure projects, expect to see more of these – hard working citizens left homeless, their worldly possessions destroyed, while land speculators, property developers, construction firms, real-estate companies, and political intermediaries make big bucks.
400 Left Homeless After Homes Demolished In Port Moresby
‘Eviction’ happened despite court injunction, hearing yet to be held
Post-Courier, June 13, 2014 – More than 400 people, including women and children, have been left homeless after 42 homes were smashed down by an excavator under the watch of armed police in Port Moresby.
A notice to demolish the area had been given to residents but the courts issued an interim injunction to stop any eviction and the matter was due to be heard in the Supreme Court today at 9.30am.
Despite this, machines moved in on the residential area on Erima Road, just before the wildlife centre, at around 10am yesterday and destroyed everything.
Residents didn’t even have time to escape with their valuables.
Those residents who had gone to work and their children to school came back to find their homes all gone.
Many people lost all their possessions. A parked vehicle was overturned and huge trees were felled.
The police forcefully stopped photographs being taken and confiscated some people’s mobile phones.
Governor Powes Parkop and the NCD Commission were to appear in court today against the residents who were seeking to stop the destruction from taking place.
The demolition was allowed to go ahead despite all parties being aware of the court case.
“The destruction is unfair and against the interest of justice and welfare of the people,” said a resident whose home was wrecked right before his eyes.
Residents are not sure on whose orders the demolition took place. But people questioned the actions and fairness of the governor and asked why there were no relocation plans in place for them like there has been for other settlements in the city’s vicinity. Attempts to get comments from the governor and the NCDC were unsuccessful.
It is now 358 days since Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was informed that the SABL leases were unlawful and should be revoked. It was on June 24, 2013 that he was given the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry.
For 358 days O’Neill has ignored the Commission of Inquiry findings, refused to revoke the SABL leases and been complicit in the illegal logging of forest resources by foreign logging companies.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has aided and abetted the theft of logs worth hundreds of million of kina and the destruction of thousands of hectares of pristine forest.
The International State Crime Initiative
The International State Crime Initiative (ISCI), a research centre based out of King’s College London, has raised concerns over the police’s treatment of Paga Hill community leader, Joe Moses, which they worry is part of a broader campaign to intimidate Paga Hill residents.
According to the head of ISCI’s Papua New Guinea section, Dr Kristian Lasslett:
“Joe Moses still has an appeal before the court, he is the last barrier between the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC) and the land at Paga Hill. Joe knows the developer’s background, he has read the Public Accounts Committee and Auditor General reports slamming the land transaction and the CEO of PHDC, Gudmundur Fridriksson. He is a proud Papua New Guinean who does not want to see his community and the land at Paga Hill surrendered to a developer of ill repute”.
Dr Lasslett’s comments come after police issued a media release last week alleging that Joe Moses is wanted for resisting arrest, inciting a fight, discharging a firearm, and escaping police custody (see Appendix B below). According to Dr Lasslett:
“I was shocked to read on the 3rd of June that police were launching a manhunt for Joe Moses. It is hard to believe that a humble university administrator like Joe, could escape from police custody. I have spoken to Joe, he denies all charges, and is in hiding fearing for his life. I am worried this is straight out police intimidation designed to terrorise the community at Paga Hill. It shouldn’t be forgotten in this respect that the Paga Hill Estate is a joint venture between PHDC and the national government’s private real estate arm”.
ISCI has obtained photos from the arrest, they show heavily armed police questioning Joe Moses (see Appendix A below). Dr Lasslett notes:
“All this comes just a month after the Paga Hill Development Company donated K20,000 to the RPNGC. It is vital that the police in Papua New Guinea are not only independent of private influence, but are seen to be independent of private influence. Accepting a donation in such close proximity to a series of major police operations at Paga Hill is at the very least poor practice on the RPNGC’s part” (see Appendix C below).
Criticism has also been levelled at the Paga Hill Development Company’s CEO, Gudmundur Fridriksson. According to the International State Crime Initiative Gudmundur Fridriksson has a worrying commercial history, and is a poor choice for a so called project of national significance. Dr Lasslett notes:
“Fridriksson has a long and chequered commercial history in PNG. Fridriksson arrived during the mid-1990s, and quickly made a name for himself through the Destination PNG affair where he was awarded K2.5 million by the PNG government to produce a book celebrating 20 years of PNG’s independence – entitled Destination PNG – the deal was subsequently slammed by celebrated ABC correspondent Sean Dorney who noted the K2.5 million book was littered with ‘appalling mistakes’”.
According to the International State Crime Initiative, following the Destination PNG saga, Gudmumdur Fridriksson set up a consultancy firm, CCS Anvil, which came under scrutiny by the Auditor General’s Office and the Public Accounts Committee. Dr Lasslett explains:
“In the most serious investigation involving CCS Anvil, the Auditor General’s Office and the Public Accounts Committee claim that when acting as an agent for PNG’s Public Curator’s Office, the firm pocketed money from deceased estates, K1,966,677 to be precise, which it was meant to deposit in Estate Trust Accounts”.
“Additionally, they also allege that CCS Anvil’s PNG principal was certifying government payments to his own firm, for as much as K500,000, and that the company benefited to the tune of K4,872,375 in ‘unlawful’ payments from the Public Curator’s Office”.
The International State Crime Initiative claim they are documenting the Paga Hill case and will bring it, along with a number of other recent instances of forced evictions in the nation’s capital, to the attention of the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing.
Contact:Dr Kristian Lasslett International State Crime Initiative firstname.lastname@example.org
Appendix A – Photos from the Arrest of Joe Moses 29 May 2014
Appendix B – 3 June 2014 RPNGC Press Release on Joe Moses
ROYAL PAPUA NEW GUINEA CONSTABULARY
POLICE MEDIA UNIT
Tuesday June 03, 2014
NCD Police on hunt for Joe Moses for unlawful discharge of firearm
Police in the National Capital District are looking for a male adult, Joe Moses, a resident of the Paga Hill settlement, in relation to a firearms complaint.
Complaints have been laid with police that Moses had on the night of May 28 discharged two shots from an unidentified firearm at a group of people on Paga Hill. Moses was brought in for questioning on May 29 but was reported to have escaped from police custody.
“We want to see the firearm and we want to know whether he has a licence or a permit to carry. However, Joe Moses ran away from us and is in hiding. We have made a number of visits to his residence on Paga Hill but cannot locate him,” case officer and Commander of the NCD Beat Unit Senior Constable Gene Punai said.
Senior Constable Punai said once Moses is located Police will also lay a number of other charges upon him including resisting arrest, escaping from lawful custody and inciting a fight.
Moses is believed to be from the West New Britain Province. His known place of residence is the Paga Hill settlement and the University of Papua New Guinea. Anyone with information on his whereabouts are encouraged to contact Senior Constable Punai on telephone 72448229.
Appendix C – Paga Hill Development Company Donates K20,000 to the RPNGC
ROYAL PAPUA NEW GUINEA CONSTABULARY
POLICE MEDIA UNIT
Thursday April 24, 2014
Policewomen thank Paga Hill Development Company for timely donation of K20,000
Acting Assistant Commissioner Reforms Joanne Clarkson today thanked the Paga Hill Development Company for its timely donation of K20,000 which enable the Constabulary to send policewomen to participate in the Australasian Police & Emergency Services Games in Melbourne, Australia.
The team of 22 which includes one policeman are currently in Melbourne, Australia where they will be participating in two sporting events, netball and basketball. The games began on April 18 and ends on April 24. Over 3,000 competitors from Australia, New Zealand, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea will be competing in 50 sports.
“We are most grateful to Paga Hill Development Company Limited for its timely assistance which enabled us to send our policewomen to participate in this regional event.
“Although this is a regional event the Constabulary was not able to fund our participation so it was left to the policewomen to raise funds ourselves. So thanks to Paga Hill Development Company and others we are able to fly the RPNGC flag at this regional event,” Chief Superintendent Clarkson.
The International State Crime Initiative
The International State Crime Initiative (ISCI), a research centre based out of King’s College London, has condemned the handling of the recent eviction at Paga Hill.
The head of their Papua New Guinea section, Dr Kristian Lasslett, puts the recent eviction exercise in historical context:
“There is a complex history to Paga Hill. Many of its residents have been residing there since the 1960s, with permission from the land’s customary owners, or in the case of the National Housing Corporations residents, as legal tenants. However, during the 1970s the High Court of Australia decided the land had been legally acquired by the colonial administration. As a result Paga Hill has passed through the porous hands of two of the most corrupt institutions in PNG, the Land Board and the Department of Lands”.
Dr Lasslett has repeated ISCI’s long standing concerns over how a state lease was then acquired by the developer, the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC).
“In 2000 the Paga Hill Development Company – a concern headed by Gudmundur Fridriksson – was granted a 99 year state lease over Paga Hill. A subsequent Public Accounts Committee report published in 2006, alleges that the lease was acquired through ‘corrupt dealings’ by a ‘foreign speculator’”, Dr Lasslett claims.
He continues, “while the Public Accounts Committee recommended the lease be forfeited, in 2009 the Land Board issued a fresh 99 year lease to PHDC, with the ground rent substantially reduced – according to the 2006 Public Accounts Committee report, PHDC were in sizable arrears. This laid the foundations for a brutal forced eviction in May 2012 where police attacked residents with machetes, and used live ammunition to disperse crowds, while bulldozers demolished homes”.
Dr Lasslett notes this 2012 eviction exercise was stopped when community leaders obtained an injunction from the National Court. Since then there has been a legal stalemate at Paga Hill.
Reflecting on the more recent eviction of National Housing Corporation residents, which has received extensive coverage in the national press, Dr Lasslett observes:
“On the 29th May this year, residents of upper Paga, an area populated by civil servants living in National Housing Corporation properties, lost their Supreme Court appeal. Two days later police arrived to ‘expedite’ the eviction process”.
The International State Crime Initiative has obtained evidence which appears to contradict a media release issued by Acting Metropolitan Superintendent N’dranou Perou who suggested the eviction was “peaceful” and “orderly”.
“I have now heard multiple accounts, and they all say the same thing. There were thugs, armed with bush knives and axes who threatened residents, along with gun toting police. Residents were not permitted to take photos, only carefully sanitised set pieces with the media were allowed”, Dr Lasslett argues.
One example of the testimony provided to the International State Crime Initiative comes from a National Housing Corporation resident who claims, “it’s a scary scenario when you are not given enough time to prepare your household stuff with policemen with their guns and the developer hired certain ethnic groups of people … [We were] just watching them carrying their bush knives, it makes you wonder, what will be the next thing to happen to your life, only God knows! Policemen would not allow us take pictures and they even confiscated our tenants chairman’s phone for taking shots”.
According to residents, homes were ransacked and personal property destroyed during the forced eviction. The International State Crime Initiative has obtained photographs that appear to verify this claim (see Appendix A). Displaced families were then moved by the developer to land at six-mile, which PHDC claims they have purchased for Paga Hill residents.
The land is in fact customarily owned, and cannot be purchased. According to recent reports on Radio New Zealand, displaced residents are now being told they must enter into a rental agreement with the traditional owners, a difficult prospect for those who have lost their source of income as a result of the recent upheavals, and who lack bargaining power now that they are homeless.
Dr Lasslett concludes:
“This has to be seen in context. The development’s mastermind, Paga Hill Development Company’s CEO Gudmundur Fridriksson, is not a blue chip executive, he is a man who came to PNG in the mid 1990s, and since then his stable of companies have been censured in no less than four Public Accounts Committee reports and two Auditor General’s Office reports”.
“Indeed, he has been accused by PNG’s auditing agencies of corruption, and benefiting to the tune of many millions of kina from a range of alleged illegal dealings. ISCI has published these reports online, we have raised the alarm, we have petitioned politicians, and the police, no one seems to care”.
The UK research centre claims they will continue to support the community at Paga Hill, and will be bringing their case to a range of international bodies, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing.
Contact:Dr Kristian Lasslett International State Crime Initiative email@example.com
Appendix A – Photographs of Properties Allegedly Ransacked During the Eviction on 31 May 2014